British sailor dies in World Yacht Race tragedy

Ashman: 'experienced yachtsman'. Picture: OnEdition
Ashman: 'experienced yachtsman'. Picture: OnEdition
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A BRITISH amateur sailor has died after being hit as he adjusted a sail while competing in a yacht race.

Andrew Ashman, 49, was less than a week into the year-long Clipper Round the World Yacht Race when he was knocked unconscious as he adjusted the mainsheet – a rope connected to the boom – while sailing off the coast of Portugal yesterday.

Veteran sailor and Clipper race founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston paid tribute to Ashman, who worked for many years as a London Ambulance paramedic.

Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail non-stop single-handedly around the world, said: “This is extremely sad news and my heart goes out to his bereaved family and friends, and to his fellow crew who have come to know Andrew with great affection during his training and the early days of this race.

Ashman, an “experienced yachtsman” from Orpington, Kent, was adjusting the sail of his team’s boat just after midnight yesterday when he was knocked unconscious by the mainsheet and possibly the boom, race organisers said.

He was given immediate medical assistance and attempts were made to resuscitate him, but he never regained consciousness and died in the early hours of yesterday.

A spokesman for race organisers Clipper Ventures said: “At this stage it looks like a tragic accident, but obviously there will be a full assessment. The skipper and crew have been very upset.”

His boat had been sailing about 120 nautical miles off the Portuguese coast, heading towards Brazil in the first leg of the race.

It is the first death in the history of the Clipper Race, which was established nearly 20 years ago.